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Can I Get Workers’ Compensation for Stress?

Feeling stress at work is not unusual, no matter your field of work. Constant emails, marathon-long meetings, tight deadlines, upset customers, and more can make just about anyone tense. And while garden-variety work obligations are not a cause for a workers’ compensation claim, some situations may rise to the level.

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Most states require businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Texas is the only state that doesn’t require coverage unless in construction or government work. Some states require businesses to purchase workers’ compensation insurance from a state fund.

South Carolina mandates coverage for any business with four or more employees. Business owners can buy the insurance from a private insurer or through the state fund. Applying for self-insurance is also an option.

The South Carolina Code of Laws Title 42 – Workers’ Compensation, often referred to as the Workers’ Compensation Act, provides that if an employee suffers an injury in the course of employment, they are entitled to recover medical expenses, temporary total compensation for lost time, and permanent disability benefits if they suffer any permanent injury as a result of the work accident.

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

You might be familiar with workers’ compensation covering a physical injury, such as cutting yourself when using equipment or slipping and falling on a slick surface. Those are great examples of possible workers’ compensation claims, but South Carolina law also allows for coverage of mental injuries, under certain circumstances.

Workers’ Compensation for Mental Injuries

The Workers’ Compensation Act says that if an employee incurs mental injuries from “emotional stimuli or stressors” that occur in the workplace, their injuries may be covered. Mental injuries can cause debilitating symptoms that should be addressed.

There are situations where a physical injury at work leads to depression or another mental health injury. Depression can be linked to direct damage to the brain or from the limitations that the physical injury caused, like loss of mobility or cognitive impairments.

Even with a preceding bodily injury at work, employees often still face obstacles when seeking benefits for mental injuries. Insurance companies may argue that a worker’s depression is not linked to the job injury or is the result of a pre-existing condition. These arguments can be refuted but it is difficult. That's why having an experienced attorney on your side is important.

To make a successful case for mental and emotional workers’ compensation claims, it’s vital to prove that the employment conditions were extraordinary and unusual compared to the normal conditions of employment. Stress caused by routine work events like evaluations, transfers, demotions, and promotions would not qualify.

In addition to your condition being connected to your work, you will need a doctor’s diagnosis that you are disabled by a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorder. You have 90 days after the diagnosis to make a workers’ compensation claim.

What Can I Do if My Claim Is Denied?

At Pierce, Sloan, Kennedy & Early LLC, we fight for our clients through insightful and aggressive representation.

We can help you file the necessary paperwork or appeal an unsatisfactory decision. If you have already filed a claim and it has been denied, we can file an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. We can argue the details of your symptoms, any medical treatment you received, and how the injury has affected your life. A hearing before a commissioner is scheduled where we will be able to present your case. There is additional recourse by bringing the case before the full commission and can even go to Circuit Court and as far as the South Carolina Supreme Court.

If your work-related stress is causing health problems, contact one of our skilled attorneys to learn more about your rights and the complicated workers’ compensation laws. Making a claim due to workplace stress is particularly challenging and our experience can be highly beneficial in working to have your claim paid.

Schedule a consultation by using our online form or by calling (843) 968-0886.